Search giant Google celebrated its 25th anniversary on Wednesday and changed its doodle (logo) accordingly. The company, which is almost everywhere in our lives, was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two students at Stanford University, who thought about how to organize all the world's information—and make it more accessible. In 1998, the two registered Google as a company, and managed to quickly take over the web search market, which until then had been dominated by inefficient engines such as Alta Vista and Lycos. Today, twenty-five years later, Google is a superpower, holding the same influence as a country.
In the last 25 years, Google's search engine has come a long way. It has gone from being a simple tool for searching for information, to a powerful device that allows us to learn, create, and connect with other people. And it's time to recall some of the great moments.
In 1998, the two registered Google as a company. Google Campus in Silicon Valley (Archive)/Walla! Technology, Yinon Ben Shoshan
2001: Google Photos
When Jennifer Lopez arrived at the Grammy Awards in 2000, her bold Versace-designed dress instantly became iconic—and Google's most popular search term. In those days, the search results were just a list of blue links, so users had difficulty finding photos of the dress. "From this case, we were inspired to develop Google Images," the company says.
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2001: "Did You Mean:"
When Google started displaying the message "Did you mean to:" with suggestions for spelling corrections, this was one of the first features based on machine learning. Before that, if the search term included a typographical error (e.g. "fluorescent"), users would be shown other pages that included this misspelling - and these are usually not the best pages on the subject. Over the years, Google has developed new AI-based techniques that ensure you find what you're really looking for, even if you mistype.
2002: Google News
During the tragic events of September 11, 2001, users had difficulty finding current information in search. To meet the need for real-time news, the company launched Google News a year later, a website that provides a variety of sources for every news item.
Twin Towers disaster: Users struggled to find current information in search./Reuters
That same year, the company launched an autocomplete feature, initially called Google Suggest. This feature tries to predict the query in the search box as soon as you start typing. Currently, the feature reduces typing time by an average of 25% and saves humanity over 200 years of typing every day.
2006: Google Translate
Researchers at Google began developing machine translation technology in 2002 to break down language barriers on the Internet. After four years, Google launched Google Translate with the ability to translate text between Arabic and English. To date, Google Translate supports more than 100 languages – 24 of which were added last year alone.
2008: Google mobile app
"When Apple's App Store launched, we released Google's first mobile app, designed for the iPhone," Google says. Features like AutoComplete and My Location made it easier for users to search with fewer taps, and were especially helpful for small screens. Today there are so many things you can do in the Google app (available for both Android and iOS) – from helping with math homework with Lens to one-tap access to a visual translation tool.
2008: Voice search
In 2008, Google launched the speech search feature on the Google mobile app, and another feature in a computer browser in 2011. Voice Search allows users to search using their voice at the touch of a button. Today, voice search is especially popular in India, where the percentage of users who send voice queries is almost twice as high as the global average.
2008: Google/Google voice search
2011: Search by image
Sometimes it's hard to describe in words what you want to look for. That same year, Image Search was launched, allowing you to upload an image or point to an image URL and find where else that image appears on the web. This update paved the way for Lens.
The Google Lens feature lets you use your device's camera to search the web. You simply take pictures of objects, and then you can compare them to other images and rate the images according to their level of similarity and relevance to the original image. You can now search using the camera in the Google app. To date, there are more than 12 billion visual searches on Lens every month.
2018: Flood forecasts
To help people prepare for anticipated floods, Google has created predictive models that use AI to estimate when and where devastating floods will occur. "We started these efforts in India, and have since expanded the deployment of flood warnings to 80 countries," Google said.
2020: Shopping Graph
The ability to buy products online became easier and more comprehensive as the search giant allowed every retail business and brand to display their products on Google for free. It also launched the Shopping Graph, an AI-powered dataset that includes products, sellers, brands, reviews, and local inventory. The data in the array is constantly updated, and today it includes 35 billion product cards.
2022: Integrated Search
To help users find the information they're looking for, even when the road to it is difficult and winding, Google created a new way to search – to use text and images together in Combined Search. Now you can take a photo of your dining room furniture and add the query "coffee table" to find a table with a matching design. Integrated Search was first launched in the U.S. and is now available globally on mobile devices, in all languages and countries where the Lens feature is available.
2023: Search Labs and Generative AI Integration in Search (SGE)
"Every year we experiment with Google Search to find ways to make it more useful to users. At Search Labs, you can experiment with experimental services that are in the early stages of development and give feedback directly to the teams that develop them," Google says. The first experiment, 'Integrating Generative AI in Search', combines the capabilities of generative AI in search. You can get an abstract of a topic written by AI, get recommendations for additional resources, and write follow-up questions in natural language. "Since we launched this pilot service in the US, we are adding new capabilities to it very quickly, and there are more capabilities in preparation."
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